THERE is no overstating the fact that on the anniversary of Haiyan what is demanded of us is a reckoning. It should be a time to look honestly at what has been done, what remains neglected, and in what state the survivors have been left. It is a time for truthfully assessing what it was that government did wrong, how – despite insisting that they warned the people of Samar and Leyte about the magnitude of the storm – government itself was unprepared for Haiyan.
And they need to answer for it. As they do need to deliver a more honest response to the fact – the truth – that survivors continue to feel neglected and uncared for, where the standard dole-outs and the press releases about “building better” have not meant real and concrete change for these communities. Where it is clear that whatever the sense that these places have already “gone back to normal” is really far from the truth, because this storm has redefined what “normal” is.
There remain many unanswered questions about how government handled Haiyan, its aftermath, and its survivors. We hope for media that they actually ask these questions, and demand answers, a year since Haiyan. But all we’ve gotten so far, as of this Tuesday before the Haiyan Anniversary, is ANC Presents Yolanda.
No researcher, no writer, no point
There was nothing in the one hour that I watched ANC Presents Yolanda that made me think the show actually had a researcher or a writer. It just seemed like one free-for-all that was limited to the voice of government talking about how it had done the best that it could. It was far from sounding like a show that was being done “in the service of the Filipino.” It wasn’t even in the service of the survivors of Haiyan.
Because while there were reports from Guiuan Eastern Samar and Tacloban Leyte, these barely scratched the surface of needs and demands from survivors in these areas. The report on Tacloban spoke of how things had normalized, because look at the trees that have grown back! Here’s some footage of a bar with the youth of Tacloban dancing to the music! Here are the city streets bustling with commerce. But none of those images prove anything at all. In fact it is faulty to even speak of “normal” when the city’s biggest business might be the influx of foreign aid workers from international non-government organizations.
The report from Guiuan Eastern Samar did not fare any better as far as describing how things actually are for survivors. Having just arrived from there last week, I daresay there was no indication to me that things are fine in Guiuan. While the center of town might be rebuilding and there are establishments that are up and running, much of it is being fueled by the presence of international aid workers.
In Sulangan, the newest structures were of a school set-up by GMA’s Kapuso Foundation. At the Eastern Samar State University, a tent city of about 100 families was filled with anger: members of that community have had countless meetings with government about permanent housing, but it’s a year since Haiyan and there are no houses in sight.
A social worker tells me that Guiuan’s major source of livelihood is copra. They lost 99% of their coconut trees to Haiyan.
In the service of government
The ANC Presents Yolanda reports on Tacloban and Guiuan made it seem like things aren’t so bad. One wonders what is worse than hunger and unemployment, the lack of permanent housing and a government that has settled for giving cash dole-outs of P500 per child to encourage survivors to send their kids to school. These are people who still live in tents, and still have no clear sense of how they might start over towards becoming self-sufficient.
It is clear that these are just a few of many questions that need to be asked of government at this point, questions that ANC Presents Yolanda host Tina Monzon Palma did not ask. She was taking every answer from government officials like these were truths that could not be critiqued. Monzon Palma exchanged smiles with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman like there is anything at all to smile about when it comes to Haiyan and the state of the survivors’ lives a year after the disaster.
She also revealed her own social class. Interviewing Alfredo Li of Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines about how their group had started the cash-for-work system that encouraged people to clean up the debris on the streets of Tacloban, Monzon Palma was incredulous: P500 a day?!! How did you monitor that they were in fact the real people who suffered?
Never mind that this was about two weeks after the storm when Tzu Chi started cash-for-work, and the question of “Did you really suffer?” should be farthest from anyone’s mind. It’s the same as government’s refusal to give everyone on the streets some food and water, because only those who are listed in their barangays were to be given any relief goods – the better to make sure that these people “truly” suffered and were in need.
But this was obviously lost on Monzon Palma, who was too busy being complicit in the pretty picture that government officials were painting about Haiyan a year after. ANC Presents Yolanda in fact was really a grand government press release pretending to be a talk show.
The survivors of Haiyan deserve better than to have their continued suffering dismissed by global media enterprises that purport to exist in the service of the Filipino, but really only serve government spin.